Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Political thoughtpolice pose a far bigger threat than Twitter ‘trolls’

British politicians want new laws to protect members of parliament from online abuse. They claim we need a crackdown on internet ‘trolls’ in response to a ‘tidal wave’ of racism, sexism and homophobia aimed at MPs on social media.

Behind the right-on rhetoric, this looks like the latest attempt to protect public figures from being criticised by the public. Troll-hunting politicians effectively want to revive the repressive old laws against ‘seditious libel’, updated for the age of social media.

There is a long history of people ridiculing and abusing British politicians – and of the authorities trying to stamp out such insolence. The right to lampoon our rulers has been a big issue in the fight for democracy and free speech down the centuries.
That is why, while not endorsing malicious personal abuse, we should defend the freedom to tell MPs and government ministers what you think of them. However nasty some tweets might be, the political thoughtpolice pose a far bigger threat to democratic debate than any Twitter troll.

Trolls have become a big political issue since the General Election campaign, with all parties complaining about ‘unprecedented’ abuse of their candidates. In a House of Commons debate, Tory MP Simon Hart lamented how the ‘robust banter followed by a shake of the hand and a pint in the pub’ of the previous election campaign had this time turned into ‘death threats, criminal damage, sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and general thuggishness’ online. Blimey.

For Labour, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told MPs she had been inundated with ‘mindless abuse… characteristically racist and sexist’, and been variously called a ‘pathetic, useless, fat, black, piece of shit, ugly, fat, black bitch’.

In response, Conservative prime minister Theresa May ordered the Committee on Standards in Public Life to investigate whether new laws are needed. This week the Independent reported that, as the Committee starts its consultation, ‘online trolling laws’ are already ‘under consideration following abuse of MPs’.



Bird of Paradise said...

Someone once said IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUINCES and we see this in the ideas of Liberalism

Anonymous said...

The original intent of the U.S. first amendment was to protect people who wanted to criticize government because under British rule, criticism of the King was punishable by death and, by extension, all bureaucrats were representatives of the King.